Canine Companions for Independence helps make Hawaii girl's Make-A-Wish dream come true

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One of young Selena Robison’s hospital stays was made bearable by the book she read. “War Dogs” explores how trained canines protect and comfort and enhance the lives of troops in harm’s way.

When Selena was surprised by the offer of a vacation or other life experience of her choice, the Hawaii resident and survivor of five heart surgeries answered at once.

She wanted most to learn about training dogs to help people.

The 14-year-old from Mililani, outside of Honolulu, spent Monday and Tuesday in dog heaven.

Selena was given VIP treatment at the national headquarters of Canine Companions for Independence, the pioneering service dog agency founded in Santa Rosa in 1975.

Thanks to CCI and Make-A-Wish, she was able to spend hours both days observing and taking part in the training of dogs that, if successful, will assist people who live with a range of disabilities.

Michelle Williams of Canine Companions said the agency was thrilled to host Selena and her parents, three siblings and grandparents.

“As far as I know, we’ve never had a request like this,” she said.

Make-A-Wish previously granted only the wishes of children with terminal illnesses, but now serves those who struggle with or have been successfully treated for serious illnesses.

Selena’s mother, Chandra Robison, said the teenager is doing well after being diagnosed with a heart condition at 6 weeks old. Selena came through the multiple surgeries plus a potentially deadly heart infection.

“This is like a reward for her hanging in and being strong,” Chandra Robison said.

Selena wore a CCI cap and T-shirt as she said goodbye Tuesday afternoon to the trainers and other staffers who fulfilled her wish to begin learning how to train service dogs, and to Buddy, Marsden and Dijon.

The special guest said she may return to Canine Companions one day.

“I’m thinking of working here.”

You can contact Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat .com.

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